Occasionally, with this racing game of ours when you look back on a week you cannot help but smile.
Last week was one of those amazing weeks with seven winners including two Grade One races for two of our biggest supporters; the Hales and de la Hey families and, sat here this Monday morning with under two weeks to the end of the season, it is mad to think it is nearly all over for another year.
This would of have to be for me and our team I am sure one of the very best weeks.
My week started with a soaking day at Wincanton last Monday and finished with a day baked in sunshine at Aintree with pretty much everything in between. I suppose the first thing to do is update you all on how the annual assistant trainer’s speech went up at Aintree at the local Chinese restaurant Sing Faye. In all truth I think it went ok, there was plenty of laughter which is always a good sign, although I’m not sure whether it was with me or at me, but I will not be worrying about that. I don’t think I upset anyone which is always a key to the speech and people clapped at the end, so it cannot have been too bad.
Aintree is always an enjoyable, but tiring week with loads to do from the actual racing to going out with all of our owners that stay up with us and everything else that goes with an important week of racing. But if I thought I was busy that was nothing compared to the work that was going on by Kate Nutt and her travelling team that stay up in Haydock for the week and most important of all the team headed up by Clifford back at the yard.
These big meetings are obviously great if you have the good fortune to be able to attend them, but we could not have had the two memorable Grade One successes if everyone who was back at home did not work extra hard to get everything done that needed to be done. Clifford has since told me just how hard everybody back at the yard worked, so well done to them for producing such a big effort and hopefully those wins were just reward for such work. With Aintree being so far away from home we travel our horses up early the day before their race so they have time to recover from their journeys and have only 20 minutes worth of travel time on the of their races. This is only possible with quite brilliant organisation from Clifford and Kate Nutt who make sure everything runs so smoothly. While up at Haydock the horses are in Kate’s care and what a marvellous job she did with them all. Of course it was not just Kate, there was a lot more of the team who went up there and worked tirelessly from walking the horses for an hour morning and evening to making sure they had everything they needed long before they worried about themselves. For me it is those things that make the difference, people willing to work that extra hour and put the horses first without a moment’s hesitation that make a successful stable.
G-stars deliver on the big stage
In terms of the racing at Liverpool aside from the excellent run from Clan Des Obeaux, who at only six years old looks set to make up into a high class Grade One chaser next season after a really solid display when third in the Betway Bowl, there were two very distinctive highlights. They are of course Politologue and Diego Du Charmil.
I will start with Diego who was quite brilliant on Saturday, where we thought the rain softened ground could well have hindered our chances but not a bit of it. For my money, you could call him the winner from miles out as he cruised through the race jumping effortlessly and quickening up well under a well-timed, ice cool Mr Cobden steer. Diego is only a young horse who has always promised to be absolutely top class and hopefully that display is very much a sign of things to come from him.
When Politologue ran at Cheltenham it was Paul’s feeling he just did not finish his race in the manner most of his horses do – he travelled well until two out until he faded badly ending up beaten a long way in the end by the quite brilliant winner Altior. Paul came up with two theories; one his breathing could well be catching him out when he comes under pressure and; two he could well have run his race long before the tapes went up with all his antics in the paddock and parade. Tongue tie fitted we bought him into the paddock as late as we could, did a couple of turns and with permission from the stewards he lead the parade. With Sam now on board he stayed relatively calm and got to the post in a much calmer state than ever before, what then followed much to our joy was the performance of his career. I think Politologue’s main asset has always been his jumping but every now and again he has looked a little weak at the finish so it was magic to see him after the second last put his head down and display an attitude that suggested he wanted to win so badly.
In my opinion, Politologue received a first-class ride from Sam who was careful not to commit for home too early and was then as strong as an ox late on after being headed just before the last. Sam told me it is rare when you are riding that you throw absolutely everything you have at a horse down to the last and they respond with everything they have, but that is exactly what happened and we all enjoyed it a great deal.
We also enjoyed the Chinese that night which John Hales treated us to, so thank you to John and Politologue for that!
However good the week was with the runners though and, as you have read it was pretty damn good, the moment which will stick with me is when family friends Bev and Ed Stephens came down to visit the yard on Tuesday.
Ed and Bev an inspiration to us all
I grew up skiing with Ed who was a huge talent and skied for Great Britain in his teenage years only to have a life-changing accident when a passenger in a car crash. Ed will spend the rest of his days in his wheelchair with round-the-clock care from either his mother Bev or his carers when he is at a place called Star College near Cheltenham. Ed’s progress since his accident has of course been slow and the only thing I am more in awe of than him is his mother’s strength in getting through what they have suffered.
Ed’s communication is now basic, but his laughter is infectious and, when he sees something that makes him smile, he beams with delight. It just so turns out that horses make him smile. He met Politologue just before he was fed so he was shaking his head up and down as he does which he found quite hilarious and then Secret Investor who was a star and stood gently in front of him for 15 minutes as Ed smiled and laughed as I talked about the horses.
He met my best mate Johnny Burke and I explained to Ed that Johnny, with a bit of luck, was going to ride in the National something that Bev has since told us he did not stop watching on the TV. To see Ed and how he is now makes you realise just how sweet life is and would sure stop me moaning about little things in my life. He has to put up with so much, but through it all I genuinely believe he is a happy soul. There are some people you meet in life who you cannot begin to imagine their strength of character and Ed’s mum Bev is one of those people, through all that she has been through she still chooses to smile, love and be happy, emotions which at times must have nearly been impossible to manage.
Her care for Ed is nothing short of remarkable and introducing them to the horses is something that will stick with me for a long time. Now, if I am ever tired or struggling for some inspiration I think of Ed and Bev, whatever I am facing is nothing compared to what they have been through, they are two quite incredible people who I am lucky to call my friends.